The Flying Hadfields


Photo: Peter Handley

This past Canada Day, as many Canadians do, some members of one particular Canadian family gathered in Ottawa to have some fun and get their photograph taken as a memento of the day. The Hadfields of Milton, Ontario are in most respects like any other Canadian family out for a flag waving afternoon of fun. But that's where the similarities end.

The Hadfields have one common thread that binds them together - they love to fly. Patriarch Roger Hadfield began flying, amongst other aircraft, B-17s for Kenting Aviation and ended his professional career with 25,000 hours as a Captain with Air Canada. Roger and his wife Eleanor passed on to their children many traits: height, dark brown hair, a love for music, work ethic, a sense of adventure and a passion for flight.

His sons Phil and Dave followed in their father's footsteps and are Air Canada Captains today - Phil on the Boeing 767 and Dave on the Airbus A330. Both have thousands of hours in the air. A third son Chris went the military route to follow his dream of being an astronaut. He flew CF-18s, became a test pilot and continues his career today as Canada's senior astronaut.  Dave's son Austin is also a professional pilot flying Beech 1900s out of Thunder Bay, Ontario and his wife Robin is a private pilot as well.

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Roger Hadfield began his lengthy career flying former USAAF B-17s - but in a very peaceful role as an aerial survey platform for Kenting Aviation. Photo: Eric Dumigan

So when Dave and Chris' busy schedules found them together in Ottawa on Canada Day weekend, the nucleus of an idea was generated to capture the family in the air in some way. Unfortunately brother Phil was tasked by Air Canada and son Austin had flying duties, but Vintage Wings management did everything possible to make an Air-to-Air family portrait a reality regardless.

This meant ensuring our F-86 Discovery Air Hawk One Sabre, High Flight Harvard and Stocky Edwards P-40 was serviceable and fuelled. This of course meant in turn that key maintenance staff would have to work on the National Holiday, but they were, as always, up to the task. Vintage Wings of Canada Photographer-in-Residence Peter Handley would be the shooter and jovial and experienced Ulrich Bollinger would fly the Harvard as a platform for Handley.

In addition portrait photographer Richard Allnutt would have about ten minutes after the flight to photograph the three Hadfields on the ground. While the team waited for the 90 degree crosswinds to settle down to safe limits, it was decided that the portraits would be shot prior to the photo flight.

The plan was for Dave Hdfield in the P-40 to head down the Ottawa River and the Gatineau Hills away from the control zone and holding off Bollinger's left wing. The P-40 could stay nicely with the slower Harvard, but the Sabre would have lots of difficulty maintaining position. It was decided that the Sabre would do a series of left hand circuits moving east, coming up on the two Second World War aircraft slightly higher that the Kittyhawk. This would prevent the Sabre from being "eclipsed" by the P-40 in Handley's camera frame. Then the group would turn back west repeating the same formation and closing circuits. As it turned out, Chris was able to hold position on the Kittyhawk for several minutes on one circuit. The results found in Handley's memory card afterwards were as good as we had hoped.

After a half hour of shooting, Chris peeled off to join Potter for some dissimilar formation training with the Mustang, but soon learned that Mike had some technical issues and had landed. He then proceeded to suck air though the front end and blow fun out the back hole, spending the next half hour carving turns and setting up low level rips down the runway. Dave and Roger spent the next half hour together flying the Ottawa Valley. For one half hour the Hadfield's held air superiority over the wide river valley and shared a particularly rare and special time together.

We now invite you to join the Hadfields on this greatest of all Canadian holidays as they gather in the sky for some fun and photos.

Dave O'Malley

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Dave Hadfield (left) briefs Peter Handley and brother Chris prior to the photo flight.  The briefing also included Mike Potter, Vintage Wings of Canada founder,  who was to launch in the Mustang IV for some aero work followed by formation training with Chris in the F-86. Photo Richard Allnutt

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Ulrich Bollinger, a former Canadian Air Force CF-104 Starfighter pilot and Harvard aircraft manager for Vintage Wings of Canada, would be the photoship pilot for the adventure. Here he and Peter Handley await the Hadfields as they strap into their respective fighters. Photo: Richard Allnutt

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Dave Hadfield signals Bollinger in the Harvard that he is about to crank over his Allison. Roger waits patiently in the stifling heat of the rear cockpit. Photo: Richard Allnutt

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The Kittyhawk is ready to rumble. Dave signals one more time that all systems are a go. In the background, Chris spools up the Sabre's Orenda engine. Needless to say, there was plenty of noise and stench on that ramp... sensory inputs quite valued by warbird lovers.  Photo: Richard Allnutt

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Aircraft at Vintage Wings of Canada always do their run-ups on the larger ramp outside the Gatineau terminal. Here Chris does a shoulder check as Mike Potter in the Mustang IV rolls to a stop behind him. Time to get these birds in the air. Photo: Richard Allnutt

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Ulrich Bollinger and Peter Handley taxi out.  Photo: Richard Allnutt

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Bollinger climbs out and Handley gives us the thumbs up as the mission begins. Photo: Richard Allnutt

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Chris holds short of the runway as Dave and Roger climb out against brisk cross winds. Photo: Richard Allnutt

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Chris takes to the air in the Disvovery Air Hawk One Sabre five minutes behind brother Dave. With his tremendous speed advantage, he caught them up in just a couple of minutes. Photo: Richard Allnutt

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Potter does his run-up on the terminal ramp.  Photo: Richard Allnutt

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Potter climbs out to practice aerobatics with the additional plan to catch up to the Sabre and do some formation training in anticipation of the July 4th air show at Vintage Wings. Photo: Richard Allnutt

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In the first run down the Ottawa River heading east, Dave Hadfield slides in snug to Bollinger awaiting the arrival of his brother Chris.  Photo: Peter Handley 

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Chris Hadfield blows by heading east. Photo: Peter Handley

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Now heading into the setting sun, the Sabre forms up nicely on the Kittyhawk's wing with Roger enjoying the view. Photo: Peter Handley

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Roger turns to snap a photo of his son Chris in the Discovery Air Hawk One Sabre.  Photo: Peter Handley

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Handley zooms in on the formation. The golden quality of the late afternoon sun makes the desert camouflage of the Kittyhawk seem as bright and burnished as the Sheffield's Pale Gold of the Sabre. Photo: Peter Handley

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On this pass, Chris executes a tiger break after pulling ahead of his brother. Photo: Peter Handley


Awaiting the next high speed pass from Chris in the Sabre, Dave dawdles along below the Harvard creating a wonderful photo opportunity against the lush green of Ottawa Valley farmland. Photo: Peter Handley

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On this pass Chris cracks the canopy back to enjoy the evening even more.  Photo Peter Handley

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And then one more gorgeous "big ole tiger break" for the camera... the Golden Hawk paint scheme is outstanding on a grim grey day, but on an evening like this... it is magical. Photo: Peter Handley

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Dave executes his own Kitty break. Photo: Peter Handley

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Hadfield pulls hard and the beautiful Curtiss P-40 planform comes into view - surely one of this classic aircraft's most elegant angles. Photo: Peter Handley


All hail Hadfield, son of Roger. As Chris whoops it up over the Gatineau airfield, the mechanics who worked the Canada Day holiday  to ensure the P-40, Sabre and Harvard were working, enjoy an impromptu air show. Left to right COO Rob Fleck, pilot Bob Childerhose, Chief of Maintenance Andrej Janik and AME Angela Gagnon crane their necks and shield their eyes from the sun. Photo: Richard Allnutt

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Yeeeeeehaaaaaaaaaaaaa!  Chris made several passes low and down the runway. It was clear that the beautiful evening and the wonderful day he had (he also met the Queen on Parliament Hill) had combined to cause him to lighten the fuel load before attempting a landing. Photo: Richard Allnutt

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Bollinger and Handley taxi at speed past Allnutt, with the shooter giving a clear indication of how he felt the photoshoot had gone.  Photo: Richard Allnutt

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After practicing aerobatics in the Mustang, Potter returned to Gatineau with possible engine trouble, scrubbing the practice session with Chris. Here he shares a light moment with Rob Fleck (reflected in the fuselage). Photo: Richard Allnutt

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A proud Roger Hadfield with two of his sons pose with the discovery Air Hawk One Sabre. Photo: Richard Allnutt

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The three men beam before they launch the air-to-air photo session. Son Chris (left)  had just returned from Star City, Russia where he was training and preparing for his future journey to the International Space Station where he will spend nearly a half of a year.  Prior to that, he spent much of the month of May submerged below the surface of the sea in an underwater research facility. Also, on this vary day he had just come from meeting Queen Elizabeth II on Parliament Hill. But best of all, he got to share the same air space with his brother and father. Photo: Richard Allnutt

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No pride is more intense that a father's pride in his sons.  Photo: Richard Allnutt

Photo: Richard Allnutt

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 Photo: Richard Allnutt

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